My, like, well, uhm, title.

lectureRemember in high school, when your teacher made you give a speech, and made you sit through the speeches of everyone else in your class? How much did you hate that?

What do you remember most about those assignments? I’m guessing it’s how many times your peers used the words “uhm” and “well” and “like.” No matter how much your teacher implored you not to use these words, and no matter how many times you swore you wouldn’t use them, when your turn came, you got up there and dropped those words about a hundred times, didn’t you?

You didn’t? Well, maybe you’re just cooler than everyone else.

Fact is, most people use these filler words, not just in speeches, but in normal conversation. And so our temptation is to use these in our writing. It makes it feel more natural, we think.

However, the very opposite is true. It actually makes the dialog feel stiff and forced. The key to good dialog is to sound natural without actually being natural. Instead of suggesting a character who is nervous and unsure, these words suggest a poor writer. Good writers will skip these words and find other ways to suggest the nervousness and unease of the characters (specifically through physical description).

When writing dialog, make sure you’re avoiding these words. The result will be clean, crisp dialog that is engaging to read.

12 Comments on My, like, well, uhm, title.

  1. Great info, and not something we hear very often. Thanks, Aaron!

  2. wow that just explained me very well i gave a speech in middle school for graduation but in class i was not elected anyways.. i kinda did not really want to talk or share my speech so when i would use this exact words hmm. and i really hate it because i make it so awkward and im just standing there looking around like a lost dog .

  3. This blog is verry intersting in my oppinion. I agree with this because it is verry important to not make it sound “stiff” or “forced”. But it is ok to use these words in certain situations. For exapmple,”I like to play chess.” or “Im not feeling well.” Also you can use these words if you are having your character give a speech ,but they should remember what they are going to say or gain the courage to say it.

  4. Christian Beaman | February 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply

    I realized the more you notice the words you use well you speak, you eventually start to change those words you choose to use. So to improve your writing you need to evaluate your writing and take notice of the problem or mistakes you made. Before you fix the mistakes, find the reason you made the mistakes in the first place.

  5. When I talk in an everyday conversation, I deliberately put like or uhm in it. It helps pull physical dialogue together. In my writing, however, I don’t really use like or uhm. It’s because when I write, I reread what was just written. As a reread, if I come across something out of place, I delete it. Like is usually a culprit, but I can certainly say I have never typed uhm in a piece of literary work. CHEERS OLDE CHAP!

  6. After reading this i realized that I use those words to make it feel more natural. We do use these words all of the time in normal everyday conversation, but in writing it does make it fell unnatural when reading it again.

  7. Summer Connell | February 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Reply

    Whenever I do a speech or talking I actually do say all of that, but when I’m writing I don’t even think about saying any of that.

  8. I have no problem giving speeches. In fact i love to give speeches and i dont mind standing up in front of people to talk about something. I know how to keep eye contact and make people interested as well. I always have alot of information and facts to talk about to make sure i know what im doing, and thats because i do know what im doing. There has been a few times but not that many that i talk about something a little to much and it drags everything out and makes it a little boring. At first i do get a little nervous but thats before i get strait to my point. I do keep eye contact with everybody and its also good to use my hands as i talk because it makes the flow of things better. Then before i know it im done and i answer questions if there ate any…it goes by fast when i give speeches and/or presentations.

  9. Using pauses such as like or uhm in conversation is fine because it does not have to be that formal. In a speech or a book, like and uhm are unprofessional pauses in dialogue that makes a writer come off as unprofessional.

  10. DeZerae Fraijo | February 26, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    I am very guilty of writing these words in a lot of my work. Not in school work or speeches, but indeed in my free-time work. In the novel that I’m working on at the moment, I have used these words quite a few times. Now that I look back at it, I realized that I could have easily come up with something more creative than these.

  11. JessicaRae Padilla | February 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Reply

    When I’m having a conversation with someone I do notice that I I’m “um” and “like” a lot, and when I’m writing I do notice they sneak into but just in my first writings and when I rewrote them I replace those words.

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